A Quick City Map Tutorial

Today I’m covering a quick way to layout a city and make it look pretty and easy to read. As with the previous post, this originally appeared on my G+ and facebook pages.

Fantasy City map design tutorial

3 steps to an attractive city map

The challenge with a city map is to lay out information on districts of the city as well as specific locations. The two can easily get confused, especially if you have a very detailed texture showing roofs and individual buildings. In this style I’m focusing on just showing the different districts. Individual locations of interest can then be placed on top by using icons, or something more elaborate.

1. Lay in the roads.

Here I’ve used a fixed width round brush, with a slightly wider width for main roads than minor roads. I’ve also used Photoshop’s layer styles to give the roads a dark outer glow to make it easier to read them. They’re white on a light background, but that won’t be an issue for long.

2. Define the city blocks

Here I’ve use the magic wand to select all the negative space where the city blocks are going to be. You can also use Select Pixels and then Invert Selection in photoshop. I’ve then shrunk the selection by 3px (though that depends on the resolution of your file of choice). The selection is then filled with black and this layer is set to overlay. I’ve also given the layer a layer style which is an internal stroke set to colour burn at 70% opacity. The result is that we can see all the city blocks, and the roads are visible as the negative space between the city blocks.

3. Delineate the different districts

Again we use the magic wand tool to get the selection of the city blocks in a specific district (you can also just get the selection by using the magic wand on the layer from step 2). Now, with one layer and one selection for each of the district, fill with the patter of your choice. Here I’ve used a striped pattern. I’ve set the stripes to a colour and used a combination of overlay and colour burn layer modes to create the effect.

Voila! An easy to read city map with clearly differentiated districts – all in less time than it takes to eat lunch. As ever, let me know if there are any questions in the comments section, or let me know if there are topics you’d like to see covered.

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